Thursday June 15, 2017
By Richard Bosselman
DELIVERING a high-performance turbodiesel edition of the Mondeo wagon at a time when sales of oil-burner passenger cars have plummeted brings no risk, a Ford New Zealand spokesman claims.
Ford chose the Fieldays at Mystery Creek to announce intent to deliver the Mondeo ST-Line, which on arrival in October will at $54,990 become the most expensive version of the medium wagon it offers here. The model runs a twin turbodiesel 2.0-litre punching out 154kW and 450Nm, the latter at 2000-2500rpm.
It also used the ag-fest to display the first Mondeo with a hybrid drivetrain, the HEV sedan, which twins a claims class-competitive economy of 3.9 litres per 100km and extra-low emissions of 89 grams per kilometres. It will be a special-order only item from August costing $55,990 plus on-roads.
Ford is anticipating eager interest in both cars, but has yet to disclose volume expectation.
The ST-Line’s arrival would seem at odds with market expectation; diesel passenger cars of all sizes have suffered especially from the consumer shift toward crossovers and sports utilities plus increasing disgruntlement about road user charges. On top of this, Mondeo sales have also been dropping over the past two years.
However, a spokesman for the Auckland-based distributor, Tom Clancy, says this is not a poorly timed move. He cited that BMW still did well with diesel passenger product.
“Is the diesel market dead? Not at all. This is a smart diesel .. very efficient, clean. High-performance diesel? It works for BMW, then why not us,” he said.
“We think the car sits in an interesting space. It will work really well for private buyers especially; people who want the extra space, equipment and performance.”
Aside from the higher-performance engine, the ST-Line has 10mm lowered suspension, receives smart 19-inch alloys, a bodykit, honeycomb grille and contrasting badging and trim, most notably some red stitching, aluminium pedals and a dark headlining.
The ST-Line specification also sits above the Titanium, so it takes dual-zone climate control, auto lights and wipers, traffic sign recognition and the latest SYNC 3 touchscreen infotainment system.
The HEV was going to be special order only until Ford could get a good handle on the market expectation. It could perhaps thereafter become a showroom product.
“It is kind of an evaluation unit, we’re checking the market out … but you don’t pay a premium for it. We think fleets looking for an option, not a full electric option, will have interest. We think it could go really well.”
A petrol-electric Mondeo is a slow arrival here; the car having been in production for three years now. The derivative was originally developed for North America, where demand for hybrids is high, but was subsequently re-engineered for right-hand-drive under the ‘One Ford’ process.
To accommodate the battery pack, the car has a smaller than standard fuel tank (53 litres, while all other Mondeos swallow 62.5) and has just 382 litres of boot space, compared to 550 litres in the hatch.
The hybrid drivetrain itself mates a naturally aspirated 2.0-litre petrol engine with a front-mounted electric motor, which delivers a combined power output of 186bhp. It uses an Atkinson-cycle engine to deliver decent mid-range economy, and electric power to fill in the torque gap this creates.
Ford has actually plumped for two electric motors. One is exclusively tasked with regenerating electricity under braking, leaving the drive motor to get on solely with the job of maximum-torque thrust.
It is also the only Mondeo with a constantly variable transmission.
How will it go? The obvious chief rival is clearly the Toyota Camry Hybrid, which mainly sells to fleet and is advantaged by the market leader’s willingness to secure big volume deals on terms that other distributors say they cannot match.
Also, while Ford might claim the car will deliver a sense of European elan, overseas’ tests suggest we shouldn’t expect the same dynamic flair that the standard car is famous four. The weight and positioning of the battery pack, the CVT and the car’s use of taller-sidewalled economy-rated tyres all take a certain toll, according to some reputable reports.